Getting Stuff Done: What’s My Secret?

TL;DR: There isn’t one — and I’m actually a slacker.

Sometimes I get comments that say I get a lot done, and they want to know how. Makes sense, especially since I work a full-time job, and have issues with fatigue. For instance, a couple weeks ago, I had my family over for a birthday dinner, for which I made Black Forest cake with homemade cherry filling. Preparing for that sounded like a lot, but it actually wasn’t. For starters, my husband does the grocery shopping, which is a huge help. I also usually have help with cleaning–we have a neighbor/friend who can’t drive, so my husband takes him to do errands once a week. Our friend is literate, but struggles with any kind of forms or paperwork, so I file his taxes. In the past, we’ve helped him track his finances and bills. He helps my husband do yard work, and cleans our house.

Our house also doesn’t get cleaned much between his visits. And detail cleaning? LOL — not happening here. That is one thing I don’t have the energy for.

But back to that family gathering. I did have to clean that weekend, because my husband and our friend had some other stuff to do along with yard work at our apartments. Thing is, the birthday party was on Sunday, so that gave me all day on Saturday to do that cleaning and to make the cherry filling. And yes, it took all day. I also only cleaned the downstairs rooms where guests would be, and skipped the upstairs (bedroom and study). It also helps that my house is not big.

The cherry filling? I pitted the cherries while watching HGTV. Once that was done, cooking them probably only took 20 minutes. So not a big deal. The following day, I did a load of laundry, patted out burgers (my husband did the grilling), set the table, and cleaned up afterward. Again, this is over the course of a whole day. So not as much as it sounds. I did some writing too, but I’m getting back into that slowly, and only wrote about 100 words. That takes all of 10-15 minutes.

However, I did hint at one secret in a comment last week, and this does make a big difference, especially during the week when I have little energy left after work, and that’s doing freezer cooking with Once a Month Meals. I discovered Once a Month Meals back in the fall of 2015, and first blogged about it here. I found it through a post on another writing blog (Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, I think), where the post was about freezer cooking. That one wasn’t specifically about OAMM, but the freezer cooking blog it linked to was.

It sounded interesting, so I clicked over–and found the solution to my ongoing dinner dilemma. You know, the one where both me and my husband are starting to get hungry in the evening. The conversation goes something like this:

DH: You hungry?

Me: A little.

DH: What sounds good for dinner?

Me: I don’t know. What sounds good to you?

DH: I don’t know.

Or he names a restaurant. Either way, we usually would wind up going out to eat. This was happening way too often–not good for our waistlines or our bank account.

The solution that dilemma is, of course, meal planning. Something I wasn’t very good at until I found OAMM.

How it works is like this: log on to onceamonthmeals.com, select a menu, or build your own menu by searching their database of over 8,000 recipes. And there are TONS of options, including a variety of diets and special needs. Doing Keto? They’ve got you covered. Gluten and/or dairy-sensitive? Plenty of recipes for you. Same with Low-FODMAP, low-calorie, GAPS, low allergen, nut-free, Trim Healthy Mama (what we do), vegetarian, and more. They have TONS of options for the slow cooker and Instant Pot to make things even easier.

Once you’ve picked out up to 15 recipes (each of which makes two meals) and select the number of servings you want, the system produces a downloadable shopping list, prep list, cooking day instructions, recipe sheet for each meal, thaw sheet to stick on the fridge/do meal planning from, and printable labels. In other words, Once a Month Meals takes out all the guesswork (which I need). Combine this with Meijer’s Curbside Pickup, Kroger’s Click List, or whatever grocery delivery or pickup is available in your area, and you’re really cooking!

Once a Month Meals recommends doing prep on one day, and the cooking the next. I usually have DH pick up the groceries on Friday while I’m working my paycheck job, then I do the prep that evening. (Prep consists of things like pre-cooking meat in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, and chopping ingredients.) I do the cooking on Saturday. And here’s what makes it really easy: a lot of the recipes don’t require actual cooking–they’re “dump and go.” Which is just what it sounds like–dump a bunch of ingredients into a freezer bag or round container for the Instant Pot, and stick it in the freezer. Easy-peasy!

But fifteen recipes sounds like a lot of work, even with dump-and-go. If you thought that, you’d be right, especially with my fatigue issues. But you don’t have to make fifteen recipes. I’ve only done that many once or twice, and yes, it was exhausting (although, I have to say it was incredibly satisfying to see my freezer full of meals afterward). Those meals lasted us for over two months, since we still eat out once or twice a week, and I make four-serving meals, so we have leftovers. Once a Month Meals has tons of what they call “Mini” menus–four or five recipes, each for two meals, giving you a total of ten meals. Sometimes I do one of those, and it can be done in an afternoon, including prep. But I’ve found what works best for me is eight recipes at once, and that lasts me and DH right around a month. An eight meal menu takes me a couple hours to prep on Friday, and an afternoon to cook and assemble on Saturday. Totally doable! Best of all, there’s no more dinner dilemma, and all I have to do after working on weekdays is stick something in the oven or Instant Pot, throw together a side, and there’s dinner. One that meets our diet plan, and doesn’t kill our budget.

Interested? Check it out at onceamonthmeals.com.¬†You can get a free mini-menu to try it out by signing up for their newsletter. That’s what I did first. Just go to onceamonthmeals.com, scroll to the bottom, and enter your email. Of course, you can unsubscribe any time if it’s not for you.

Disclosure: Once a Month Meals links are affiliate links, and if you sign up, I’ll get a little referral fee at no extra cost to you. As an affiliate, I am also being compensated for writing this blog post, but all wording and opinions herein are my own, and honestly, I’d recommend Once a Month Meals even if I wasn’t an affiliate. It’s that helpful.

Tennessee Update: The bank finally got everything together and has us scheduled to close on our construction loan this coming Thursday! Our builder was on the property last Thursday, bush hogging and mowing in preparation to begin cutting the driveway in and level the ridgetop. There won’t be anything for us to do at the property until he’s done with that, so the bank is going to overnight the paperwork so we don’t need to go there just to sign papers. The builder expects to have the access and ridgetop ready within the next couple of weeks, so we’ll be heading down there soon to finalize and stake out the house placement. In the meantime, I have tons to do writing out specs for finishes and materials, some of which will need to be selected pretty soon (like windows and doors).

What I’ve Been Reading: The Ravening, by Dawn Thompson. Somehow this book got lost in the shuffle for ten years until I found it last month. It’s the paperback that took me close to a month to read. I will admit that was partly because it started out kind of slow, and was a little repetitious. But once it got going, it reminded me of why Ms. Thompson was one of my favorite authors, way back when (sadly, she’s no longer with us). It’s a historical vampire/werewolf romance set in mid-nineteenth century England, and the third in the Blood Moon Brotherhood series featuring vampires that can shapeshift into wolves. However, it’s not necessary to read the other two books (I did, but it was over 10 years ago, so I didn’t remember them well). Great worldbuilding with the vampire society, especially the difference between the good vampires, and the bad, “undead” vampir, and tons of sexual tension that romance readers love. If you enjoy historical, vampire, and werewolf romances, check out this series and get them all in one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: I made my 1,000 words this week, barely! That has been working out well, and with all I need to do for the new house, I’m going to keep it at that level, and shoot for another 1,000 words this week.

What about you–would you consider making a month’s worth of meals in a weekend, to free up time the rest of the month? Have you found any hidden treasures on your bookshelf, like my Dawn Thompson book? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing related or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Jalape… No. Just No.

I like spicy foods. I like jalapenos. But this weekend, they put a bit of drag on an already-tight schedule.

Upstairs shower in the rental house (before the floor was done)

Things are moving along at the rental house. The restoration crew has the whole place painted, tile is done, and now they’re working on trim and accessory pieces, such as the #shiplap in the first floor bathroom, and the handrail along the stairwell upstairs.

The latter needed to be stained. That’s one of the tasks I’d agreed to take on to rein in costs when we found out we were going over budget. I found out about this on Thursday night, and they wanted it done and back by Monday. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but this weekend, I needed to do a Cooking Day. We were out of frozen meals, and I didn’t want to put off Cooking Day, as that’s my best shot of keeping healthy dinners on the table, especially on weekdays. I was already having a busy week due to it being the beginning of the month (meaning an evening of paperwork for rent deposits from our apartments, and another for bank statement reconciliation). I hadn’t even put the grocery order in yet for my husband to pick up the following day.

I did the grocery order Thursday night, after DH & I got home from our regular date night (we picked up the stairwell railing on the way home). I figured if I was going to stain and poly the railing, I might as well do our mudroom shelves and bench, and kitchen shelves too. On Friday, he picked up the groceries. As soon as I got off work, I cut the mudroom & kitchen shelves, and put on the first coat of stain on one side. After that, I did the food prep–mostly cutting vegetables.

Shelves and a handrail – so far, so good!

One of those was Jalapenos. I’ve chopped jalapenos many times before, and have never had a problem. But these must’ve been extra spicy, because wow, did my left hand burn afterward! It didn’t really become noticeable until an hour or so later, when I was watching TV. I had to keep running into the kitchen to dip my hand in milk. By the time Gold Rush was over, my hand felt fine, and I stained the other side of the shelves and rail before bed.

I slept great (for once). The next morning, I was all ready to get going with the second coat of stain and then cooking, but once I got out of the shower, my hand decided otherwise. HOLY COW MY HAND WAS ON FIRE!

I got the stain on, but it was a challenge. I kept having to dunk my hand in the bowl of milk I’d brought to the basement with me. I’m talking like every couple of minutes. It must’ve taken me twice as long to stain those five shelves and handrail.

I tried everything I could find online to soothe the burn–milk, heavy cream (more fat content), rubbing alcohol, vinegar… none was helping much. I slowly got a couple of recipes put together in the same way I’d stained the shelves, taking breaks every now and then to soak my hand for several minutes. I’d found an article that suggested lime juice–and what do you know, I had some extra limes from my cooking day plans. It took several times of rubbing my hand on the lime for a good several minutes, but gradually, it worked! I only had four of my recipes done by the time I should have had all eight. But at least my hand had stopped burning. I eventually finished my cooking day and got the second coat of stain on both sides of the shelves by the time I called it a day (and night).

The biggest irony here? I had a whole box of disposable gloves in the basement that I’d been using for staining! You can bet those will be used next time I have to cut jalapenos. I sure hope those recipes are worth the pain they put me through. Going by the little taste I took of one, I think they’ll be good!

What I’ve Been Reading: three short stories from Smith’s Monthly #40 by Dean Wesley Smith. Three of the stories were from series of his I’m familiar with and enjoy; the other I couldn’t quite get into. That story was intended to be humorous, and as a writer, I know how tricky that can be as humor is so subjective. So I skipped it and moved on to the novel. More on that when I finish it.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As you might guess from how my week has gone, nada. Which is a bummer because I have the next scene in my head, it’s just a matter of sitting down to write it. So that is my goal for this week.

What about you–ever had a bad experience with food prep? What have you been reading lately? And how are you doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing-related or otherwise? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.